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100 Maximums

Today, the second day of the second Test between Australia and Sri Lanka in Hobart, just a few days after his beatification as the greatest Australian One Day Cricketer, Adam Gilchrist became the first Test cricketer to hit one hundred sixes in Tests. I’ve had my eye on this milestone for a while (thanks to Cricinfo’s Live stats) and today it was reached in grand style. Gillie hit three big ones and the third, immediately following the second, was last seen heading over a stand of fir trees on the perimeter of lovely Bellerive. While that was a fitting way to bring up the ton, it’s cost Gillie ten grand because he wanted to auction his ball on eBay (all proceeds to OxFam, of course).

Gilchrist is a well know bigger hitter. But is he the biggest of the big hitters? The answer is…. It depends. When you look at the “Tonk Factor” (TF) expressed in the table below (sorry for those of you whose email client doesn’t support HTML), you can see that Gillie’s TF is 11.1. That is, 11.1% of Gilchrist’s runs are scored in sixes. That’s not bad – not bad at all. However, there are some who are better – but not many. Murali for a start! I’ve thrown in a few bowlers with big hitting reputations. Of course, they don’t have the responsibility of batsmen. But even most of those, while having good TFs, don’t surpass Gillie.

Chris Cairns, second on the list of six hitters (with 87), has a TF of 15.7 – now that’s getting near the top of the list. Afridi, no surprises for guessing, beats that comfortably with 18.8. But the winner is (as far as I can tell – I compiled these figures myself): Lance Cairns. His legend as being a big hitter is backed by stats. However, with just 28 sixes and less 1,000 Test runs, he claims to being the biggest hitter of all time are slender.

You will notice that on the whole, as the average goes up, the TF comes down (see graph below). Generally, the higher the average, the lower the TF. Bradman hit only 6 sixes in his whole Test career. That’s a TF of just 0.5% but I’m sure that The Don would not have cared. He once sent a message to Neil Harvey, “If you don’t hit the ball in the air, you can’t get caught.”. The text book run machines, Greg Chappell and Ricky Ponting have TFs of sub 4%. Interestingly, Chappelli, who I think sees himself as a bit of a hitter (“I always favoured the horizontal bat shots, while my brother Greg played in the “V”.), has a TF of just 1.7%. Rod Marsh, who was definitely seen as a man who could clear the fence has a humble TF of 4%.

When you look at Gillie’s high average, combined with his high TF, and his strike rate of over 82 runs per 100 balls (most good Australian Test batsmen are between 50 and 60), perhaps, all things considered, he is the best big hitter ever.

Player Sixes Boundaries Runs % boundaries %runs (Tonk Factor) Average
Gilchrist 100 759 5420 13.2 11.1 49.3
Hayden 79 1026 7799 7.7 6.1 52.7
Symonds 15 76 982 19.7 9.2 32.7
Afridi 50 266 1683 18.8 17.8 37.4
Cairns, C 87 452 3320 19.2 15.7 33.5
Jayasuria 58 950 6837 6.1 5.1 40.2
Bradman 6 n/a 6996 n/a 0.5 99.9
Cairns, L 28 n/a 928 n/a 18.1 16.3
Ponting 57 1125 9455 5.1 3.6 59.1
Chappell, G 16 771 7110 2.1 1.4 53.9
Chappell, I 15 n/a 5345 n/a 1.7 42.4
Marsh, R 24 405 3633 5.9 4.0 26.5
Hughes, M 17 113 1032 15.0 9.9 16.6
Muralidaran 24 154 1127 15.6 12.8 11.7
Lee 15 132 1098 11.4 8.2 21.1

The Bowlologist

The first Test has been and gone. It was a slaughter. Looking around the world, you can say that in duplicate. Australia slaughtered Sri Lanka by (less than half) an innings and South Africa slaughtered New Zealand by more runs than I could count. In fact, South Africa’s second innings (which was only three wickets down) easily accounted for both of the Kiwi’s paltry efforts.

I hardly watched a ball of the Test between Australia and Sri Lanka but I did listen to a great deal on the radio. As you all would know, I’m not into giving free advertising to commercial concerns. But ABC Radio and Grandstand doesn’t fall into the commercial category. Listening to ABC cricket is magnificent. If you can watch TV with the volume muted and listen to the ABC, all the better, but the radio coverage in itself is wonderful. The ABC commentary team may not have a panel that have all captained Australia, or even necessarily played first class cricket – something that would preclude them from commentating on certain commercial concerns – but they all love cricket, they all know their stuff and with the right mix of characters, they contrive to deliver enlightening and enjoyable comment.

Of course, there is Skull (Kerry O’Keefe). He was a Test cricketer. Peter Roebuck was a first class cricketer. But it is some of the others that I find intriguing. Jim Maxwell, Drew Morphett and Glenn Mitchell are “cricket nobodies”, in playing terms. Yet, they are paid to watch, and waffle about cricket for long periods of time. And what a good job they do. How I admire them for getting into such an enviable position. They just love the game (and all sport) and I’m sure they’ve worked hard. Jim Maxwell is a cricket journalism icon. I recall several sub-continental tours where you got the impression that Jim was actually paying his own way. I remember one famous occasion in India where Jim was under the desk fixing the wiring – during the call. And he’s been doing it for a long time. For some reason, “Massie’s match” was being discussed during the course of the last match. Jim casually remarked “I was there”. He was pickling his liver in the Members’, when Massie took 16 at Lords. Just for the love of it.

It is on the ABC that you will hear The Bowlologist. I didn’t forget him. Last, but not least, is Damien Fleming. The Victorian and Australia swing bowler. He is a real character and knows his cricket. He loves his stats and can trot them out with the best. Among other things, Fleming is a bowling consultant these days (which former Australian Test bowler isn’t?). Flem thought he needed a better term for his professional services and invented the term “bowlology”. Soon you will be able to get a degree in Bowlology at the Bowlers University. (http://bowlersuniversity.com).

It makes one think about how far science and analysis will go in sport. Kerry O’Keefe comment that Dennis Lillee was the best analyst of batsmen he ever saw. He explained that he didn’t mean that Lillee spent hours watching video footage. Quite the opposite. Lillee had that innate ability to watch a batsman for a few balls and spot the weaknesses in technique. It’s a skill, an instinct really, that sets the greats apart. Warne, McGrath, Hadlee, Imran, Akram, Marshall, Miller, O’Reilly, Barnes, Spofforth, Jo Angel – they all had it.

Are bowlers better today because of all the help they get? Do all the technology, cricket academies and bowling coaches make a difference? I’m not talking about the greats but the next level down, right through to state level? The answer is I don’t know. Probably – or a whole lot of money is being wasted. The technology is at the very least interesting. Those tools that you see on the local television carrier are quite amazing. That one that plots were the ball is pitched and where it passes the batsman are fantastic. You can have it done for an entire over. Or you can see one bowler to all batsman, or one bowler to left and right-handers, colour code of course. Or one bowler to all batsman, coloured codes for dot balls, wickets, and how many runs. Last summer we saw Cook’s “out balls” for the entire series and they conclusively showed that he was susceptible to a certain type of delivery. It’s incredible. Add to that super slow motion replays from 1001 angles, analysis of seam position, seam movement during delivery, monitoring of pace in the air and off the pitch, trajectory analysis and how many revolutions per second a spin bowler can get from a ball, and you get an idea of what can be learned at the Bowlers University.

I’m sure it’s interesting but give me Thommo any day. The Thommo degree in bowling was far easier to teach and even better to watch. “I just shuffle up and go “whang”.” I’m happy for Flemmo to be the Dean at the Bowlers University as long as Thommo is on the lecturing staff.